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Port Woes Small Problem for Kings

October 17, 2002|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

The Kings were in a panic.

Less than 48 hours before their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Staples Center, Mattias Norstrom was stuck on the docks in San Pedro, trapped in a shipping container.

Jason Allison had been flown in from China to save the day.

"It was pretty stressful," said Kurt Schwartzkopf, the club's director of sales and marketing.

But President Bush's lifting of a 10-day labor lockout at West Coast ports freed some 20,000 three-inch-tall plastic Norstrom action figures from their oceanfront prison and Saturday's heavily promoted giveaway went off as planned.

The Allison figures, which arrived safely by airmail, were put into storage. They'll be handed out Jan. 4, when the Kings play the Dallas Stars.

Before then, the Kings will distribute figures depicting Ian Laperriere on Nov. 2, Adam Deadmarsh on Nov. 30 and Ziggy Palffy on Dec. 19.

The Kings are the first sports team to contract with Stevenson Entertainment Group, a Sherman Oaks company whose other "Smiti" action figures have depicted rock groups Metallica, No Doubt, Limp Bizkit and KISS, plus MTV's first family of absurdity, the Osbournes.

The company also is producing a set of eight NHL All-Stars that includes Allison, Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche and Brett Hull of the Detroit Red Wings. Company founder Hugo Stevenson said about 30 other NHL, NBA, NFL and minor and Major League Baseball teams have inquired about his products, which he hopes will become the next bobblehead.

Schwartzkopf, looking to attract fans, struck a deal with Stevenson after reading about the collectibles in Rolling Stone magazine.

The Kings advertised the giveaway on radio and television, as well as on 1 million pocket schedules, but they ran into a glitch last month, when the Pacific Maritime Assn. imposed a lockout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The Norstrom figures had been shipped from China, where the "Smitis" are manufactured. They had cleared customs but were stuck on the dock.

Frantic, Schwartzkopf arranged for the Allison figures to be flown in, a costlier option than shipping. Stevenson picked up the cost, "probably more than $20,000," Schwartzkopf said. The cardboard boxes made to hold the sets were reprinted, flip-flopping the dates of the Allison and Norstrom giveaways, and a crew of 20 was hired to insert the Allison figures -- and accompanying sticks -- into the boxes.

"The fans expect to get the stuff you're promoting," Schwartzkopf said. "Giving them a voucher probably wouldn't have gone over very well."

But Schwartzkopf's scrambling, it turned out, was for naught.

Early Friday morning, he got a call from UPS telling him that the Norstrom figures were off the docks and ready for delivery.

They were handed out, in the original boxes, on Saturday night.

King fans were none the wiser.

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